Veneé Pawlowski was excited about her new stroller. Then the pandemic hit.
“We were going to take walks; now I can’t do that,” she says.
Pawlowski gave birth to her second child on Feb. 22, just weeks before the coronavirus pandemic made its way to North Carolina. Up until then, the pastry chef had been planning ways to spend time with her new daughter, Amelia, including visiting family and friends.
In reality, Pawlowski has only left her house in Greensboro’s Dunleath neighborhood a total of four times — mostly to grab baby goods or go to the doctor — since COVID-19 became a problem.
“I just started thinking about all of the things that could go wrong,” she says during a recent video chat. “I have another child as well, so I know about all of the things that could go wrong. Like if I go out, I’m running the risk of getting sick and then passing that on to my child. And then if I get sick, I can’t be around them. All of the bad things in my brain start going in that direction.”
The last time she left the house, she says, she tried to go to Target with her husband Ian to pick up some diapers for Amelia.
“No one was wearing masks,” she says. “Half the people including workers weren’t wearing masks and there were too many people in the store. I was really freaked out. It made me feel bad about leaving the house.”
Prior to getting pregnant, Pawlowski worked in various kitchens in the city including at the Greensboro Country Club, where Ian also works, as a pastry chef, and at White and Wood as a line chef. She also owns and manages her own pastry business, Black Magnolia Southern Patisserie. Because she’s spending so much time indoors, Pawlowski is naturally filling it with baking and cooking.
“I definitely have some stir-craziness going on, but I try cooking,” she says. “I’ll watch a new cooking show and try out some recipes.”
She’s also staying busy by taking a limited number of orders through her business. Lately, she’s been making cinnamon rolls and variations on banana pudding.
“Right now, I am doing Cinnamon Roll Saturday,” she says. “I really wanted a cinnamon roll and I tried to get one from Machete, but they kept selling out. So, I was like, I’m a baker — let me make them. I sold out last weekend.”
And even though she’s been able to fill her time with some of her favorite hobbies, as well as keeping her newborn company, Pawlowski says she can get lonely because Ian works long hours and she misses her family.
“My mother lives four minutes down the road,” she says. “My mother-in-law lives in College Hill. We’re all very involved in each other’s lives, so not being able to see them, it’s been very hard. They both cried when we got to do video chat but it’s just difficult because I worry about their safety as well. That’s another thing to worry about. Not just your child but your parents too.”
Pawlowski also says she’s worried about the effect of reopening businesses too soon on the state.
“I’m worried about if we do reopen, that there will be a spike in infection rates,” she says. “I’m afraid to leave the house or even go for walks.”
Instead, Pawlowski says she’s working at her own pace and appreciating the quiet time she has with her new daughter.
“I sing a lot of songs to Amelia,” she says. “I try to keep music going. There’s also a balcony outside of my bedroom so I step out to get fresh air. It helps a lot.”
- Favorite thing eaten in quarantine: I recently got a waffle maker. I love waffles. I make chocolate chia-seed waffles, honey-cornmeal waffles. My hands-down favorite are pecan Belgian waffles with whipped cream and berries and rum caramel.
- Quarantine silver lining: I’ve gotten to do a lot of stuff around my house that I have not had the chance to do. I do procrastinate; I know a lot of people do. So, it was really nice to go through artwork that we haven’t gone through in years, put up our wedding photos, organize video games, go through our music room and just clear stuff out. It’s given us time to make our house into a home.
- What you are watching/reading/listening to: I’m introducing my daughter to Raffi. We’re listening to music a lot like Talking Heads. For TV, I’ve been watching this witchcraft show on Freeform and also that “Tiger King” stuff.
- Words of encouragement: There is good that is coming out of this; there are positive things coming out of this. It’s a time for self-reflection. Work on your house, be able to spend time with loved ones. My husband and I don’t usually see each other that much normally. I think people should just really enjoy spending time with loved ones and connecting with other people. Now I talk to my mom every day. Same thing with friends. We could die. Life is too damn short; don’t take chances.